Understanding the Terms of Entry
20th Sunday after Pentecost - 10/15/2023 | Matthew 22:1-14 ESV
The Kingdom on God’s Terms
In an era where the mantra "Have it your way" has become the cultural norm, we find ourselves in a unique position to set our terms for various aspects of our lives. From family planning to gender identity, the desire to tailor our existence to our preferences has become increasingly prevalent.
However, when it comes to matters of faith and God, are we entitled to shape our terms? Let's explore the terms of entry into God's kingdom.
The Impact of Personalization on Our Perception of God
The prevalence of personalization extends into our spiritual lives, where we often view our relationship with God through the lens of personal preference. Some argue that God is whatever we make of Him or Her, transforming theology into a reflection of individual desires. However, it's essential to remember that no one can define God or dictate the terms of our eternal salvation.
Meditation, self-reflection, and the pursuit of higher consciousness may bring us closer to understanding God, but true communion with Him is only possible through divine revelation. God has chosen to reveal Himself through His prophets and apostles in the Holy Scriptures, emphasizing that we cannot define Him on our terms.
God's Revelation in the Holy Bible
In the Holy Bible, God reveals a recurring human error: the attempt to shape life and our connection with God on our terms. Similar to Adam and Eve's expulsion from Eden when they sought to establish their terms, we often find ourselves outside of God's kingdom due to this presumption.
God's Word reminds us that no one is righteous, and no one truly seeks God, making it clear that we cannot attain God or eternal life on our terms (Romans 3:10–12). Fortunately, God has shown us the way to righteousness and eternal life through His Son, as exemplified in the Parable of the Wedding Feast.
God's Terms for Entry
Jesus, in the Parable of the Wedding Feast, addresses those who seek to enter the kingdom on their terms. The King represents God, and the initial guests symbolize the people of ancient Israel.
God sent prophets to invite them, but they refused or were preoccupied, disqualifying themselves from the kingdom. This parable extends its relevance to the Gentiles, including us, who have been invited.
The critical question arises: Will we accept God's invitation on His terms, or will we persist in seeking our way into His kingdom? Let's explore the terms Jesus outlines for entering the kingdom.
Heaven as a Divine Feast
Jesus conveys that heaven is not a realm for indulging in worldly desires. Rather, it's a grand feast, the wedding feast prepared by the Father for His Son and His Bride.
This imagery is consistent with God's promise of a bountiful banquet (Isaiah 25:6), where the greatest joy lies in eternal communion with Christ. To be with Christ is to be with God, and Christ Himself is the banquet, the living bread (John 6:51), that grants forgiveness and eternal life.
Entry into God's kingdom is by invitation only, a fact Jesus emphasizes. These invitations are extended through the gospel and holy baptism. God's invitation is found only in Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). The Gospel, when preached truthfully and correctly, extends God's invitation to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and Holy Baptism welcomes individuals into the eternal feast.
As believers, we have received this invitation through various channels, and we continue to extend it to others. Sharing the gospel and bringing people to church play a crucial role in this process.
God's Inclusive Invitation
God's invitation is not exclusive. It is extended to all people, regardless of their background, education, or reputation.
God desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). This invitation is founded on God's grace and the atoning sacrifice of His Son.
It's important to note that this gracious invitation does not rely on human merit, as all have sinned. Only through faith in Jesus Christ can one be justified before God (Romans 3). God extends this invitation to all nations, emphasizing His inclusivity.
Why Few are Chosen
However, not everyone who receives the invitation will partake in the eternal banquet. Jesus warns that "few are chosen." This means that those who reject or neglect the invitation will not find a place in God's kingdom.
In the parable, some were too preoccupied with worldly matters to respond to the invitation. Yet others outright rejected it.
In today's world, some may dismiss the gospel as unimportant, considering their daily lives to be of greater significance. Others may even oppose Christianity, leading to persecution and violence against believers.
The Need for the Righteous Garments
In the Parable of the Wedding Feast, entry into the feast required wearing the wedding garment provided by the King. Similarly, for entry into God's kingdom, one must be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Relying on one's works or righteousness is futile, as God's standard is absolute perfection. Only faith in Jesus' righteousness can justify us before God (Romans 3).
God's terms for entry are not burdensome. They are a reflection of His grace and love. The question we must ask ourselves is whether we accept these terms. They are an offer of pure grace from God. Who, in their right mind, would reject or insist on their terms when such grace is available?
In a world that encourages personalization and self-determination, it's crucial to understand that God's kingdom is not a place where we can set our terms. Rather, it operates on God's terms, which include faith in Jesus Christ, acceptance of His invitation, and the covering of His righteousness. These terms are an expression of God's grace, and they offer us the path to eternal communion with Him.
Will you accept these terms and find a place in God's kingdom, or will you insist on your way, risking exclusion from the divine feast?